Consumer Health Digest #02-49

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 3, 2002

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Congress moves to protect vaccine makers. The recently passed Homeland Security Act (HR 5005) includes a provision intended to block lawsuits by misguided parents who claim that thimerosal (used to preserve certain vaccines) caused their child to become autistic. [Stolberg SG. A Capitol Hill mystery: Who aided drug maker? New York Times, Nov 29, 2002] The provision amended Section 2133(5) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300aa-33(5)) so that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, rather than the courts, would have jurisdiction over complaints related to all ingredients listed in vaccine license applications or on product labels. There is no logical reason to believe that autism is caused by a toxin or that the tiny amount of mercury in thimerosal caused any child to develop autism. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program limits damages and includes expert review that is far more trustworthy than the whims of local judges. The new law is extremely important because America's vaccine industry cannot survive without protection from unjustified lawsuits.

FTC petitioned to regulate spam. The Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC), the National Consumers League and Consumer Action have asked the Federal Trade Commission to classify unsolicited commercial email ("spam") as an unfair and deceptive trade practice. The petition asked FTC to rule that spam is "deceptive and therefore unlawful" if it:

TRAC's Web site cites a recent finding that bulk e-mails comprise 36% of all e-mail traveling over the Internet, up sharply from 8% one year ago.

Vitamins E and C may harm women with coronary artery disease. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial has found that 33 months of supplementation with vitamin E (400 IU twice daily) plus vitamin C (500 mg twice daily) was associated with an increased risk of death and nonfatal myocardial infarction. The subjects were 423 postmenopausal women who had at least one narrowed coronary artery when the study began. The study also found that hormone replacement therapy might be harmful. [Waters DD and others. Effects of hormone replacement therapy and antioxidant vitamin supplements on coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women. JAMA 288:2432-4240, 2002]

New South Wales announces health fraud crackdown. The Government of New South Wales has announced plans to crack down on 'miracle cures', 'wonder drugs' and misleading health claims and advertisements. The plans include:

A review committee chaired by Professor John Dwyer, Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW, will provide expert advice for the project. [Crackdown on wonder drugs/miracle cures. NSW Minister for Health news release, Oct 31, 2002]

U.S. Government site offers comprehensive HIV/AIDS information. AIDSinfo provides a single, searchable resource of HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines and information about federally funded and privately sponsored HIV/AIDS clinical trials. The site also includes information about FDA-approved therapies. AIDSinfo is sponsored by several agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

New book about ergogenic aids. Human Kinetics has published Performance Enhancing Substances in Sport and Exercise, an excellent 384-page textbook that covers most of the substances claimed to enhance athletic performance. The topics include anabolics, blood doping, stimulants, dietary supplements, and herbs, as well as the ethical issues surrounding their use. The book has 29 chapters written by a total of 36 experts. Copies can be ordered for $57 from Amazon Books.

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This page was posted on December 3, 2002.